VMT032: How to find YOUR music teaching curriculum


How do you know what your music teaching curriculum should look like? That’s what I’ll help you decide in this week’s episode with some simple and actionable exercises.

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VMT 032 – How to find YOUR music teaching curriculum.mp3 (transcribed by Sonix)

Vibrant vibrant vibrant music teaching proven and practical tips strategies than ideas for music teachers.

This is Episode 32 of the vibrant music teaching podcast. I’m Nicola Cantan and in this show I want to help you find your music teaching curriculum.

Welcome beautiful teachers. Last week we talked about what a music teaching curriculum is and how you can consider what your music teaching currently is and where you’d like it to be. So we talked about the curriculum being your plan for your students. It’s about what you want to teach them and when. Basically and it doesn’t mean you have to stick with it forever and ever. It doesn’t mean that you’re stuck. It just means that you have a framework from which to gauge where your students are at and where your lesson planning is that and move all of you forward and create the studio and the students that you want to. Now I won’t go over everything I talked about last week if you missed it. Go back and check it out at vibrantmusicteaching.com/31 as a numbers three one. But there’s one thing from last week that I really want to remind you about even if you did listen and that’s that even if you don’t set a curriculum even if you don’t think you have one you do. It’s just called luck and chance or it’s being said by a method book or an exam system or something like that. So let’s keep that in mind as we go forward we’re going to talk today about setting your curriculum and your curriculum for your students should reflect what you want for your studio what type of studio you want to be. Do you want to be the studio that prides itself on doing a big improvisation only concert every week every year every week.

Well every year. Do you want to be the studio that considers the stylistic elements of particular periods vary. I was going to say in a very considered way you get what I’m saying which type of studio do you want to be and what types of students do you want to attract because what you teach is a big part of that of course so is how you communicated and all of that stuff. But if what you’re actually teaching and the students you’re producing don’t reflect who you want to be as a teacher then something is misaligned. So setting your curriculum will help us to align all of these things fit it all together and make it make sense. You know broad Broadway so that we can stay on track with our teaching goals. Now setting a curriculum sounds like a massive undertaking. It sounds like we’re you know a school board or governmental organizations having a curriculum about music it doesn’t have to be that complicated. I’m going to give you two ways today that you can think through your music teaching curriculum and what you want it to be. So they’re called the fill in the gaps method and the goals method. Let’s start with the fill in the gaps method. This is where we take a method book or an exam syllabus or something like that some series that we’ve been using that we want to use that we like and that already aligns pretty closely with the type of teacher we want to be.

So take that method book series or exam syllabus or series of repertoire whatever it is and lay out for yourself what is covered. What do they cover and when it’s really that simple you can just look at the contents of some books and they will tell you exactly what’s being introduced on every page write it out is a big list for yourself whether that’s in Google Docs whether that’s in a notebook whether that’s on post it’s on the wall it doesn’t matter. Whatever is your style. Write out everything that’s included and then start to make notes to yourself about what is wrong for you. They didn’t do anything wrong. Every every way of moving students through music studies every progression that you can choose is a choice method. Books have to make choices and compromises. They can’t teach everything all at once. You can’t immediately explain to students every aspect of rhythm and pitch and how the staff works and improvisation and leadership playing and everything all at once. You just can’t do it. So they make choices or compromises to lay these things out in a natural progression different method books will leave stuff out that other method book will include at the very start and vice versa. So you need to decide which parts you think are perfectly paced and perfectly positioned and which parts are not. I may give you some examples. Say you love piano adventures.

Okay. I used to use piano Adventures a good bit. I don’t really use it anymore but I’ve nothing against it, it’s a pretty good series. Now there’s one thing one major gripe that I have with Piano adventures and maybe you share this but maybe you don’t just consider it Piano adventures does not introduce quavers until level 2. Those are eighth notes by the way. If you’re in the US they don’t introduce that until level two and I find that when the students don’t meet quavers until level 2 they’ve spent a whole primer book a whole level one especially if they’re moving slowly that could be quite a while. Okay. And they haven’t met these things and they scare the bejesus out of them. They just don’t know what to do with them. So they go as fast as possible and I find that happening again and again with students when I did piano adventures. Now this is not a complaint session about piano adventures I can say is nothing in particular that I find terrible about it. I don’t think you’re a terrible teacher for using it. I’m just giving an example from something I know there would be these types of things in every single method depending on you and how you see things and how your students develop. So take a look at that list from your method book or your exam syllabus or whatever and ask yourself which of these things are too late and which are too soon and just move them around.

You have the power you don’t have to wait until level to a piano adventures to introduce quavers. You can introduce them when you see fit. You can work on them from day one. They just won’t be in the method book that doesn’t matter. There are other ways to introduce things you can do games you can do rhythm activities in this case you can do composition you can do all sorts of things to address this but if you don’t know and you don’t think about it and work through this process then you’re not going to move them. You’re always going to be a little bit annoyed when you get there and your students aren’t going to be where you’d like them to be at that stage. So that’s one example. Let me give you another and I used this last week a little bit. My scale levels right. That came from me having students who were going through certain grade levels in the exam system with the Royal Irish Academy and me being frustrated because they didn’t really know a major scale properly and they were learning the relative minor and with the way I teach scales and highly relating it back to the minor because I believe the easiest way to make everything fit together. This was impossible if students couldn’t fully picture the major scale not just play it but picture it. Know what’s in it and answer questions about it.

Then of course I can’t play a relative minor with that as their as their grounding point. So I made it my mission to move all the major scales to the start of our journey and think about that way earlier with my students. Maybe that’s a wrong move for you. Maybe you don’t care about scales. Maybe they you’re much later and you wait until students can learn them much much faster and you just blast through them. That’s fine too. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying you need to think about it because otherwise it’s just chance they just come up when they come up and you go with the flow and then later you get annoyed or frustrated or your student does because they don’t know what they should know or what they need to know for what they’re doing. So that’s the first method is fill in the gaps. So we start with a method book or an exam system. Write out everything that’s covered and then we consider what we want to move around and we also need to consider what’s missing. So for example if a method book does not include lead sheet but you believe that that just being that students should all learn then you need to put that in somewhere. Decide where it’s going to go when is it going to be introduced. What way are you gonna introduce it.

Not the specifics but the the vague idea. Are you going to start with just C major in their first year and then start introducing seventh cause at this date or whatever it can be quite vague but you need to have some idea in your curriculum of when that is as you start to move things around and add things in and take things out you’ll develop something that looks roughly like a curriculum it’s laid out you know about how long each stage takes you can even start filling in the years or the months or the terms or whatever. As you go and you know what’s being taught and what you want to teach and what needs to be brought in and when. The second method I called the goals method and actually I would recommend it possible to do both of these. It would really benefit you to just go through both of these processes because you’ll see it from different perspectives. Pick the one that suits you most first and go with that one and then maybe come back to the other one later and see if you get the same results or or similar results. So the goals method is where we start at the end. So there is no end with music but pick a a number of years. That seems to make sense to you. So it could be after five years seven years ten years. I think those would be good ones to choose after that long. In your studio what would a student look like.

What would they be able to do. What would they know right or less for yourself if a student stayed at my studio for seven years then say 7. OK so they start at age 8 and they’re 15 now. That’s just one example you could do 10 years whatever. What do they know. At age 15 and this is sort of not an ideal student in the sense of a uber talented amazing student just a student who practices reasonably well and follows your advice reasonably well okay. An average really good student what do they know. At age 15 after studying with you in your studio for seven years. Write a list and then work backwards. So if they know that after seven years if they can do that after seven years after four years sorry after six years why do they need to be able to do and to know and you can work back all the way until it’s after one year and maybe you can break down that first year after six months. What do they know and what can they do. Thinking about the end goal that is the end goal after a specific period of time in your studio that you think a student might actually stay before moving onto a new teacher. Think about that and work backwards from the results because you should have a result in mind. Yes that specific student may end up loving rock music and you go completely on a tangent. That’s fine. This is just a framework to base all of this stuff up and it does make a difference to how you teach and how conscious you are of where you’re going. Just give it a try.

Either tried to fill in the gaps method or the goals method and see where you get to and then try the other one. It’s a really good exercise to do and it might help you to clarify what you think about your studio and my car for even your marketing messaging. It might just free up so much ad space for you if you lay all this ad on paper block off some time. Hopefully this week to settle this out for yourself and let me know how you go with it. There’s a couple of other resources I want to mention before I let you go. The piano tracks project is a website that I’m somewhat familiar with and she has basically tried to set out a curriculum for you now.

What I don’t actually recommend you do is use this as your curriculum but it might be another good starting point for you.

See what you agree with see what you disagree with and combine that with the other methods we’ve talked about today to come up with your curriculum. The other thing I wanted to mention is the piano power booster one because this is basically kind of a curriculum in a sense piano power booster one is a course that was just released on VMT and it is a 40 week lesson plan that will take you through everything but the pieces so I don’t believe.

Method books or exams or anyone should control what you teach or me. But if you think about all the other stuff out stuff outside of actual repertoire such as oral and rhythm and technique and theory and plan that out based on your goals you’ll arrive at something like the piano by rooster 1 and that’s what I’ve done. So this lays out everything that you would want to teach. First year with games and activities that you can incorporate directly into your lesson or you can pick apart and create your own curriculum and your own plans bought from it.

There are videos to walk you through each step of the way and super clear lesson plans to help you along as well. So I hope you check that out if you’re a member and if you’re not of course you can sign up and get access to that and everything else instantly. Next week I’m gonna be talking about lesson planning.

So we’re going down into the minutia now that we’ve looked at the big picture so I highly recommend you do this curriculum exercise before we get to next week’s episode so that you have this perspective this big picture stuff. And then we’ll get down into the details next week of how you actually lesson plan. Week to week month to month the show notes for today’s episode are at vibrantmusicteaching.com/32. That’s the numbers 3 2 and the curriculum kick off a five day lesson planning challenge is gonna kick off this Friday. That’s the first of March and it’s gonna be a five day challenge. I’m really looking forward to joining all of you for this. There are gonna be live workshops every day and emails to talk you through each of the stages and work through this process so you can improve your lesson planning.

So the podcast of it right in with that next week and I hope you’ll join me for the challenge. You can just go to the blog or to the vibrant music teaching site where this podcast is and sign up there using the widget or you can go directly to vibrantmusicteaching.com/kickoff.

That’s all one word to sign up today and join me on Friday. I’ll see you then. Just a quick reminder to members that the piano power booster won the highly anticipated course is now available inside the library. You can find it inside the video library if you’re a member and if you’re not a member you can sign up at VMT.ninja and get access today.

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